This dish brings together Italian heritage, North African influences and a British staple vegetable, the sweet and aromatic parsnip. Combining the flavours of Morocco or the Middle East with the cuisine of my home country is relatively easy and is something I do quite often. I then thought adding parsnip would have worked quite well. This root belongs to the same family of celery and parsley, and brings a fresh note to a dish, similar to that of celeriac root. This freshness lifts the density of flavour of the lamb sausages and paprika quite well, while the sauce gets a more complete, rounded texture with a few parsnips mashed in with the fresh tomatoes.
The addition of parsnip also happened because I wanted one of my dishes to be featured in the reader’s recipe column on the Daily Telegraph. This week’s ingredient was parsnip, and I came up with this creation. Hopefully they’ll print it, if not, it’s here for you to share with all your friends. Enjoy!
1 tbsp odourless coconut oil (or any vegetable oil will do)
2 small banana shallots (or a medium sized onion), chopped
1 medium parsnip, diced
salt to taste
6 small merguez lamb sausages, chopped in 1cm pieces (you can also use ordinary sausages, in which case you might want to add slightly more smoked paprika at a later stage)
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
4 fresh plum tomatoes, roughly diced (alternatively, use 1 can chopped tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked hot paprika (you can choose the non spicy variety if you prefer, what we are looking for here is the smoky flavour)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (this is optional, I used rosemary, thyme and oregano)
50ml dry white wine
320g rigatoni pasta
30g pecorino romano, freshly grated (you can also use parmesan)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or chilli oil if you want extra kick)
Melt the coconut oil in a wok and add the shallots. Fry them on high heat for a couple of minutes before adding the parsnip. Add the salt to draw out moisture from the root, turn down the heat to medium, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, shaking the wok occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add the sausage and cumin and cook, stirring continuously, for a further 3 minutes until the sausages start changing colour.
Fold in the chopped tomatoes, garlic, paprika and herbs (if using), add a bit more salt and a splash of wine, cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Take off the lid and squash the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon. Cook uncovered for another 5 minutes until the sauce is a creamy consistency, with some parsnip pieces still whole, some melted in with the tomato.
Cook your rigatoni, add half a ladle of cooking water to your sauce before draining, then chuck the pasta in the wok with the sauce. Cover with grated pecorino and olive oil and fold everything together until evenly mixed. Enjoy with a scattering of freshly grated pecorino and some ground black pepper on each plate.
Health score: 6